Two comedies entered the box office ring this weekend, Guess Who and Miss Congeniality 2, with neither carrying a bone of originality within them. Easter weekend brought a remake and a sequel, and of course, North American audiences embraced them, foregoing reviews and common sense. The question was which one would rise to the top this weekend versus the second weekend of the under-whelming Ring Two, which the media put a very positive spin on last weekend. The good news for studios is that four of the top ten films grossed more than $10 million over the three-day portion of the long weekend.
Guess Who Upsets Miss Congeniality 2
Weekend Box Office Wrap-Up for March 25-27, 2005
By John Hamann
March 27, 2005
In 2004, Easter weekend brought us five new releases, and included two big flops. The Alamo and The Whole Ten Yards debuted last year amongst some other even more forgetful movies. None of those new releases grossed more than $10 million, and the effect is a drop in new product this year. Easter has never been great to the box office. The 2003 Easter frame fared no better than 2004, but at least Disney’s Holes was able to earn a little over $16 million through its opening frame, but it settled for second behind Anger Management. 2002 was a different Easter animal, as Panic Room was able to gross more than $30 million over opening weekend, but Death to Smoochy died, as the $50 million production opened to only $4 million. Four releases hit screens in 2001 including Bridget Jones's Diary and Joe Dirt, but again over that weekend a holdover (Spy Kids) was champ, and no film made more than $12.5 million. This year, fewer openers and stronger holdovers are keeping sales brisk. Read on to find out who did what over the three-day portion of the Easter weekend.
The number one film this weekend is Bernie Mac and Ashton Kutcher’s Guess Who, a supposed remake of 1967’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Guess Who managed to gross a very strong $21 million over the Friday to Sunday portion of the long weekend, an excellent number for the folks at Columbia Pictures and the five other production companies involved in the making of this film (13 producers worked on this one - yikes). Released to 3,147 venues, Guess Who had a very strong venue average of $6,673, and a solid internal multiplier of 2.56 (multipliers go down because Friday was a holiday for some people, and Sunday is busy for families). Tracking showed Guess Who grossing only $15 million this weekend and finishing well back of Miss Congeniality 2, making this opening the biggest tracking blunder since Diary of a Mad Black Woman a few weeks back. For Ashton Kutcher, Guess Who is his biggest opening yet, save for the $27.5 million that Cheaper by the Dozen found over Christmas 2003 (Kutcher must have a thing for opening films on religious holidays). His biggest ‘above the title’ gross came in January 2003’s Just Married, which found $17.5 million over its opening weekend. For Bernie Mac, his only ‘above the title’ appearance came in Mr. 3000, which crashed and burned with $8.7 million when it opened in September of 2004, so Guess Who will get him back to opening films on his own. As BOP’s Tim Briody said in his Friday Analysis, the box office was hungry for adult comedy, as the last funny flick for grownups was the quick-to-depart Be Cool, or February’s Hitch. For Sony, Guess Who continues a great run for the studio. Sony has had big hits from all of their openers in 2005 except one, Man of the House. Hitch, Are We There Yet?, Boogeyman and now Guess Who have earned $101.7 million for Sony over their respective opening weekends. Next up for Sony is XXX: State of the Union with Ice Cube, which could be huge when it opens in what’s become a lucrative late April (or early summer) start.
The number two spot was a bigger battle than expected between two sequels, Miss Congeniality 2, and The Ring Two. It wound up going to Miss Congeniality 2, with a much lower opening weekend than tracking and Warner Bros were looking for. Tracking had the Sandra Bullock sequel finishing the weekend with a four-day take of about $25 million, but it will have to settle with much less than that. Over the three-day portion of the weekend, Miss Congeniality 2 grossed only $14.5 million from 3,233 venues, giving the comedy a soft average of $4,488. Since it opened Thursday, Miss Congeniality 2 has earned $17.6 million, not much more than the $13.9 million the original pulled in through its first four days, which happened to finish on Christmas Day. I have to ask whether this was the smartest idea for a sequel, as lessons could have been earned from the Legally Blonde 2 fiasco, where the sequel grossed only $2 million more than the original on opening weekend, and ended up earning about $6 million less than the original overall. If Miss Congeniality 2 earns $6 million less than its original, I’ll eat my shirt, as the original Gracie Hart flick ended up with about $106 million as its domestic total. Reviews for this one were brutal, with only 20 reviewers out of a possible 102 giving this a thumbs up. However, as an endnote, the Sandra Bullock name in known for legs, not big opening weekends. The leggy 40-year old actress has appeared in six films that opened to less than $20 million, but went on to earn $80 million or more.
Third spot goes to The Ring Two, but it would have been a solid second if it hadn’t plummeted compared to last weekend, as the shine really comes off what should have been a very successful franchise. The Ring Two grossed $13.8 million in its second frame down a nasty 61% from its $35 million open. In my March Forecast, I implied that DreamWorks was making a smart move opening The Ring Two the weekend before Easter, and using the long weekend to lower its second weekend drop-off. What I didn’t see coming was the absolutely horrible word-of-mouth (it’s not scary) and the worse reviews for the sequel, as The Ring Two fades quickly into obscurity. While no budget information has been released for the DreamWorks feature, its probably safe to say it cost at least $15 million more than the original, which came in at $45 million. So far, The Ring Two has earned a softer than expected $58.1 million. This should have been a $50 million open and $30 million second weekend – the brass at DreamWorks dropped the ball on this one.
Robots from Fox Animation and Blue Sky Studios pulls up in fourth this weekend after three weekends of release. The good news for Fox is that the animated release was able to spend another frame above $10 million; the bad news is that the feature is off 38% from last weekend. Robots earned $13 million from a still huge 3,451 venues – it had an average of $3,788. The $75 million production has now earned $87.4 million and should hit $100 million next weekend; however, Robots is set to finish with about $140 million, well off previous efforts from DreamWorks Animation and Pixar.
Fifth place goes to The Pacifier with Vin Diesel, as the former action star continues to draw audiences in the Disney film’s fourth weekend. The Pacifier earned another $8.5 million, down a decent 32%. The Pacifier has now earned $86.3 million, surprisingly more than Ice Cube’s similarly themed Are We There Yet?, which finished with $80.1 million. Another surprise may be that The Pacifier combined with Disney’s other teen set film Ice Princess may outgross Fox’s Robots. Combined, the two have about $100 million, ahead of Robots’ current total of $87.4 million.
There’s a hefty drop-off from fifth to the lower rungs of the chart this weekend. Hitch finishes sixth, as the Will Smith comedy is still selling tickets in its seventh weekend. Hitch pulled in another $4.3 million, dropping only 34%, after falling a slim 26% last weekend. The Sony release has now earned a powerful $166.5 million, and should draw close to $200 million, which would make Hitch Smith’s biggest since 1997’s Men in Black.
Hostage falls to seventh, as the Bruce Willis action piece cannot find a domestic audience. Hostage earned $4.1 million, off 31% compared to the previous frame. The Miramax release has now earned a slight $26.2 million against a budget of $65 million. At least Willis is in the exciting Sin City, which opens very wide next weekend, with what looks like extremely positive word-of-mouth.
Disney’s aforementioned Ice Princess finishes in eighth spot this weekend, earning a soft $3.7 million, down a higher than expected 46% from the previous frame. So far, the low budget Ice Princess has earned $13.3 million. Look for the Disney flick to finish with about $25 million.
Ninth goes to Be Cool, as the misbegotten sequel from MGM slowly folds up shop, shedding 777 venues this weekend. Be Cool earned $2.9 million in its fourth weekend, down a nasty 52% from last weekend. The total now for the John Travolta comedy stands at $52.4 million.
Tenth this weekend goes to Oscar winner Million Dollar Baby as the boxing flick continues to strive towards $100 million. MDB earned $2.6 million in its 16th weekend, down 35% from the previous frame. That puts the total for the Clint Eastwood film at $94.2 million, with $100 million set to come eventually.
Overall, box office was down compared to the same weekend last year, but up compared to the previous Easter weekend, which fell on the April 9th weekend last year. This year top ten box office grossed a very soft $88.4 million over Easter weekend, right on target with the $88 million Easter weekend earned last year. However, over the March 26th weekend last year, the top ten earned $102 million, well ahead of today’s top ten totals, and thanks mostly to The Passion of the Christ.